The Night of Ilshat Faizulin in the Camp Nou

CSKA Moscow starting XI for the match at Camp Nou against FC Barcelona.

CSKA Moscow starting XI for the match in the Camp Nou against FC Barcelona.

That one night in the Camp Nou probably was the pinnacle of his career. On 4th November 1992, Ilshat Faizulin was, to a certain extent, the hero of the night for a mighty CSKA Moscow that outclassed the all-powerful FC Barcelona in Catalunya. Faizulin contributed with two assists in that historic 3-2 win and his overall performance was absolutely brilliant.

No one expected much from CSKA Moscow that night. A 1-1 draw in the Russian capital two weeks earlier had left the Armeitsy in a very tight situation, since on the other side of the barricade was a team packed with highly talented footballers such as Andoni Zubizarreta, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman, Pep Guardiola, and Txiki Begiristain. Johan Cruyff was the mastermind of this constellation of stars and FC Barcelona were firm favourites to win the match and secure a place in the group stage of the recently created UEFA Champions League.

Things, however, didn’t go according to plan for the home side and the magic of football simply happened: Gennadi Kostylev’s highly organised CSKA Moscow team offered FC Barcelona a true lesson in humbleness and hard work. The Catalan outfit started the match off on the right foot and after just 13 minutes, centre-back Miguel Ángel Nadal headed home a corner from the right leaving Dmitri Kharine stranded on the goal line. Just 18 minutes later, FC Barcelona doubled their lead on a quick counter-attack finished by Txiki Begiristain, who, following a superb assist by Hristo Stoichkov, dribbled past Kharine and placed the ball into the empty net. The Catalan outfit had everything in their favour to easily win the match after earning a two-goal lead and complete control of the game, when all of a sudden, a 19-year old talented forward named Ilshat Faizulin started to change the course of events. Just before the break, Faizulin received a pass from Oleg Sergeev and assisted Yevgeni Bushmanov for CSKA’s first goal of the night. It was a touch of class from the Osinniki-born player, who curled the ball around the defenders to offer Bushmanov the opportunity to score a goal at emblematic Camp Nou.

Faizulin dribbling Ferrer and Nadal before the centre-back got injured.

Faizulin dribbling past Ferrer and Nadal before the centre-back got injured.

Faizulin was on fire that night. His versatility up front was simply remarkable and Barça’s defenders experienced plenty of problems to stop him. In a desperate attempt to tackle him, Miguel Ángel Nadal picked up an injury early in the second half and the Catalan defence started to crumble. Whether on the left side or on the right side of the attack, the versatile Faizulin spread misery in the home side defence and on 60 minutes, during a quick counter-attack, Ilshat got the ball from Sergeev once again, ran into the box and assisted Dmitri Korsakov for the final blow to make it 3-2. It was all over for FC Barcelona, who were forced to score two goals in order to walk through to the next stage of the competition, but failed to do so. People were shocked in the Camp Nou, but for CSKA Moscow and Ilshat Faizulin that was a night to remember, regardless of what happened afterwards during the UEFA Champions League group stage, where the Russian outfit failed to win a single match.

Faizulin stayed with CSKA Moscow until 1995, but FC Barcelona’s officials didn’t forget that talented young man who performed brilliantly at the Camp Nou a few years earlier and, according to the Spanish, the Catalan team scouted Ilshat on several occasions and showed interest in signing him. The move to Camp Nou never happened and in the summer of 1995, Faizulin joined Racing Santander reportedly for €800,000. Despite his enormous talent, his new life in Spain was far from easy and Ilshat failed to live up to the expectations. Two years later, Faizulin went on loan to second-tier side Villarreal CF, but he was once again unable to impress, scoring only one goal in 22 matches. The following year, he joined Portuguese side FC Alverca on loan, but it was more of the same. Lacklustre performances and a blatant inability to score didn’t offer plenty of playing time in Portuguese football. By that time, his career was already going down the drain and the once extremely promising forward turned into an unenchanted journeyman, who ended up hanging his boots in 2007 after a stint in Spanish fourth tier side CF Ribamontán al Mar.

Faizulin back in his days with Racing Santander.

Faizulin back in his days with Racing Santander.

Faizulin, who interestingly enough was a Bandy (a winter sport quite similar to ice hockey) player before discovering his passion for football, was a “product” of Soviet football and like many others of his golden generation ended up having a bland career outside his motherland, but that one night at Camp Nou was living proof of all the talent he had and of a potential that, in a way, was never properly developed.

Author: Joel Amorim

From Porto, I started enjoying Soviet football at a very young age when I would watch Rinat Dasaev on TV, but it was probably Radchenko’s brace and Shmarov’s goal at the Santiago Bernabéu a quarter of a century ago that transformed me into an avid consumer of what was going on with the game throughout Eastern Europe. Punk rock fan and English teacher by day, football writer after the sun goes down.

Comments

  1. Stu Morrison says:

    Great piece again Joel. How’s about doing something on when Yuran and Kulkov played together at Benfica? The night they beat Arsenal at Highbury with Isias on fire was a particular favourite….

  2. Stu Morrison says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MN6TycisAs her’s a link for those who haven’t seen it….

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